The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, shut down its Dillons Central Bakery in Hutchinson, Kan., on June 1, ending a more than 40-year operation and affecting 28 employees.

The company will continue to operate bakery counters in its Dillons stores, but it will ship the products offered from a larger bakery Kroger operates in Colorado, said Sheila Lowrie, Dillon Stores communications coordinator.

The company operated the bakery on East Fourth Avenue, next to its warehouse and central offices, since the 1960s. It was currently supplying bakery products to 82 Dillons stores in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, with most in Kansas, Lowrie said.

“We did have to close our bakery,” she said. “We did inform, and are in the process of working with, our associates at our Central Bakery in Hutchinson. HR (human resource) teams are on site today and will be over the next week to assist our associates through this difficult transition. We’re working both internally and externally to find opportunities for the associates who will be impacted.”

The company informed employees of the decision Friday morning, and the bakery shut down at noon. Dillons will give the employees opportunities to move to the company’s Jackson Dairy, its perishable warehouse or to work in its grocery stores, according to Lowrie. "We do have a resource day scheduled for next week for associates who’ve been working with us to provide resources, options and other next-step opportunities to move forward,” she said.

“While the decision was very difficult for us to make, it was necessary,” Lowrie said. “With the closure we’ll consolidate production work to another Kroger-owned facility."

“For us, it was simply no longer economically feasible to continue the operation out of the Central Bakery for the limited products for those 82 in-store bakeries," she said. “We have to constantly look for ways to lower costs and increase efficiencies by maximizing efficient production in our larger facilities. We’ll offer the same great products, but with new lower prices. It will enable us to enhance our pricing.”

Source: The Wichita Eagle and wire service sources